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Let’s Talk about Combo Cards: What is Advance Parole Form I-131?

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Let's talk about the combo card.

Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, an immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our offices in St. Louis, Missouri; San Diego, California; and Washington, D.C.

Everyone wants to know about the combo card. I don’t know why I said it like that. I just like saying that. The combo card. It sounds sort of cool. The combo card is the card that you receive in the middle of your Green Card case. If you are applying for adjustment of status and you are inside the United States, hopefully, you will file these forms. The I-130 is the petition for an alien relative. That’s the form that the U.S citizen files for the foreign national to say, “Hey, I’m married, and I want to get my spouse a Green Card.” The I-130A is the biographic information about the beneficiary, the foreign national. The I-485 is what allows them to adjust their status from whatever status they’re into as a lawful permanent resident.

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What is an EAD/AP Combo Card?

The other two are where the combo card comes in. One is the I-765, the employment authorization document (EAD) that you’re requesting. The last one is the I-131, the permission to travel, the advance parole document, which allows someone who has applied for a Green Card to leave the United States temporarily and come back without losing their status and without their Green Card case after being deemed abandoned. So when you have that situation where there’s a file for the I-131 and the I-765, you’re going to get, eventually, a combo card. That comes after the biometrics, after the background check, and you get this one card, and it says, Employment authorization document, on top, and on the bottom it says, Also serves as I-512 advance parole. So you’re going to get this combo card.

The Application for Green Card Case

Now, in theory, that is supposed to tide you over until your Green Card interview, until you get your Green Card. But there’s been a huge backlog on work cards and combo cards lately. Sometimes we’ve seen situations where people get their Green Card before getting their employment authorization document, combo card, or travel card. When you get your card, that’s your permission to leave the United States, and that’s your permission to go to work. Your Social Security card, if you fill out your forms correctly, should follow right after that too. But your combo card is the work and travel card. That, and your passport, will be what you need to go and come from the United States to your home country, or travel abroad, and come back.

The combo card, in most situations, comes about halfway through the process, after your fingerprints, but before your Green Card. But depending on your field office, you might have your Green Card interview first and never even get your combo card. You might get your combo card after your Green Card. Usually, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cancels out the combo card applications (the I-765 and the I-131) when you have your Green Card, but sometimes you get it. You just don’t want to keep that and give it back to USCIS at the time that you meet with them again.

Now, if you have your Green Card, you don’t need that combo card anymore. Your Green Card serves as your ability to work in the United States and serves as proof of your ability to work and proof of your ability to travel outside the United States. You won’t be too worried about that current employment authorization document and the advance parole once you get your Green Card.

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Which Works Best: Combo Card or Green Card?

The other thing I want to say real quickly is that a lot of people get really upset and bent and worked up about when they’re going to have their Green Card interview; when do I have a Green Card interview. And I get that. I understand the frustration and the sadness and all that about the delay. But the truth of the matter is, once you get your combo card and you have that ability to work, and you have that ability to travel outside of the United States, you’re in pretty much the same position you’re going to be when you get your Green Card or register permanent residence. The combo card is really nice to have, and we want to get it as quickly as possible because it’s going to set you up for working and traveling and all that stuff.

But the day you get your Green Card, your life isn’t that much different than the day before when you had your work card. You don’t have many more privileges. You do have some, you can start sponsoring people for immigration benefits if you want, and you’re obviously starting your clock towards citizenship. But at the end of the day, getting EADs and advance parole documents is really a powerful thing to have. It gives you that ability to work, it’s proof of your status, and people really like to have it.

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Get in Touch With Us

That's everything I know about combo cards. If you have questions about the EAD or the advance parole, give us a call at 314-961-8200. You can email us [email protected] Be sure to join us in our Facebook group, which is called Immigrant Home. If you liked this video, we ask that you please share it out on social. And that you subscribe to our YouTube channel so that you get updates whenever we make videos just like this one. And don't forget, Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon Central, you'll find me live answering as many of our immigration law-related questions as possible.

Thanks a lot. Have a great day.

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